Report: Hawaii's growing homeless crisis bucks national trend

Report: Hawaii's growing homeless crisis bucks national trend
(Image: HUD)
(Image: HUD)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is one of only 13 states whose homeless population has grown since 2010, according to a new state-by-state report to Congress.

From 2010 to 2016, the number of Hawaii residents on the streets and in shelters grew 36 percent. That's the third-highest increase in the country. The largest was in Wyoming, which has seen a 48 percent increase in homelessness.

The figures are based on point-in-time counts conducted in every state in January.

KC Connors, a member of the Windward Homeless Alliance, participated in the last point-in-time count and said it's vital to better understanding the homeless crisis.

"You have to define the problem to be able to solve it," she said. "If people aren't counted, we're not going to get the funds and we're not going to get the help."

Hawaii's statistics are in sharp contrast to the national trend, and come amid increasing city and state efforts to find solutions to homelessness.

Nationwide, homelessness has declined 14 percent since 2010, the year President Barack Obama launched a new strategy aimed at ending homelessness.

"Every person deserves a safe, stable place to call home," said HUD Secretary Julián Castro, in a news release. "The Obama Administration has made unprecedented progress toward ending homelessness and today marks the seventh straight year of measureable progress. While we know that our work is far from finished, it's clear we're on the right track to prevent and end homelessness for good."

But the gains nationally haven't been seen in the islands.

In January 2016, Hawaii had 7,921 homeless individuals in shelters and on the streets. That's up from 5,834 in 2010.

Scott Morishige, the state's homeless czar, said despite the disappointing figures there is progress to celebrate.

"Over the past two years we've actually seen 10 percent increases in homelessness and this year it's only 4 percent. When you look at Oahu specifically it actually had less than a 1 percent increase," he said.

Morishige added that he's most concerned about the growing unsheltered population. According to the report, Hawaii is also one of only four states where more than half of the homeless population is unsheltered. About 54 percent of Hawaii's homeless are living on the streets.

"About 70 percent of the neighbor island population is unsheltered and that's really a reminder that when we look at addressing homelessness we need to look at it as a statewide issue," Morishige said.

Other statistics found in the new report:

  • From 2007 to 2016, Hawaii saw the nation's third-largest absolute increase in homelessness. Over the period, Hawaii's population grew by 1,851 people -- or 31 percent.
  • Hawaii is one of only five states in which 30 percent of more of the homeless were unsheltered families with children. Nationally, the rate was 10 percent.
  • Hawaii also had a very high rate -- 74 percent -- of unaccompanied homeless youth who were unsheltered.
  • And in Hawaii and three other states, half of all veterans experiencing homelessness were living on the streets. In Hawaii, the rate was 61 percent.
  • Finally, some 93 percent of individuals in Hawaii with chronic patterns of homelessness were unsheltered, the highest percentage in the nation.

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